NEWS

Jefe here, and just wanted to let everyone know that my charity project is close to wrapping up. Desperate Times – Songs of the Old 97’s is officially out in the wild. If you’re not familiar with the project, it’s an album of Old 97’s covers by a bunch of great artists with all proceeds going to charity: water. It’s been a very fun project, and I greatly appreciate the Old 97’s giving me the green light to make it happen. If you supported the original Pledgemusic campaign, thanks! (And I’ll get the limited edition vinyl out ASAP!) But if you’re just hearing about it, check it out, I think you’ll enjoy it. And any proceeds still go to charity: water so it’s for a good cause.

You can get a CD at Good Records in Dallas or Waterloo Records in Austin, and online at CDBaby, and digitally from all the usual suspects.

> CDBaby (CD and digital download)

> iTunes

> Amazon MP3

> Spotify

Here’s a list of all the tracks with some thoughts on each of them:

1. Let’s Get Drunk and Get It On – Hayes Carll
A complete reinvention of the song. Hayes turns it into a more plaintive request for short-term companionship, with a quiet sense of desperation. Hayes seemingly wants to claim the title of “most messed up” himself.

2. Salome – The O’s
John and Taylor are an acoustic duo with a real banjo-heavy country sound. Salome is a personal favorite of mine, in part because it’s a microcosm of the Old 97’s sound — a country beat with a desperately heartbroken protagonist and a wailing lead guitar that’s barely acknowledging either. The O’s take on it is refreshingly different.

3. Rollerskate Skinny – Kelly Willis
Kelly is one of Austin’s most beloved local artists. Her voice is such a powerful instrument, not flashy, inherently country—she just takes a song and owns it. Her version of Rollerskate Skinny makes it sound like it was written for her. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.

4. Question – Ben Kweller
I’ve enjoyed Ben’s music for a long time, and when he chose Question i could hear him singing it right away. He brings an earnest vulnerability to songs like this, and his piano-heavy version is very cool — there’s something in the vocals that adds a sadness to the whole affair.

5. Won’t Be Home No More – Monte Warden
Monte is royalty in the realm of alt-country. His band The Wagoneers had a vintage country sound and a reputation for blistering live shows. His treatment of fan favorite WoBeHoNoMo has a strong Buddy Holly vibe.

6. Melt Show – Slobberbone
I am HUGE Slobberbone fan. Fun bit of trivia: so is Stephen King, who’s mentioned them in at least two novels. I think Brent is an amazing songwriter and some of my favorite live shows ever have been Slobberbone/Old 97’s combos. Their version of Melt Show rocks just as hard as you’d expect.

7. Valentine – The Deathray Davies
John Dufhilo, frontman of long-time Dallas faves the Deathray Davies, typically has many projects going at once — he also leads Cantina, a more acoustic-flavored group (featuring Philip Peeples on drums); he’s the drummer for Apples in Stereo; and he just launched a new album with the Cliffs. The Deathray Davies have a fuzzy, kinetic pop sound that turns the acoustic simplicity of Valentine into something completely different.

8. The New Kid – Sarah Jaffe
I saw Sarah open for the Old 97’s a few years ago and was really impressed with her voice and presence. Her version of The New Kid is a daring, haunting track that verges on sinister.

9. Victoria – Shinyribs
After years with the Gourds, Kevin Russell could pretty much do no wrong in the Texas music scene. The fact that he followed up that era with a band as great as Shinyribs is just a gift to us all. They do some very inspired covers and here they transform Victoria into a festive jam, complete with a horn section. It’s a blast—especially live.

10. Four Leaf Clover – Jessie Zazu and Linwood Kirk of Those Darlins
Ken told me once that Those Darlins reminded him of the Old 97’s when they started out — just the right amount of swagger. Sadly we catch them here just as they disband. But Jessie and Linwood pulled out all the stops with this track, creating a sort of 70’s lounge vibe that would be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Another of my favorites on the album.

11. Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue – Will Johnson
Will Johnson can do no wrong in my book. I grieved for the end of Centro-Matic but we’re still blessed to have Will the solo artist, and this track shows you why. Will talked about “turning a song on its ear” and I think there’s no better example of someone taking someone else’s song and making it their own.

12. Streets of Where I’m From – The Polyphonic Spree
The incongruence here is striking. The Polyphonic Spree have such a lush, full sound — harmonies with a couple of dozen singers will do that. They can turn any song into an anthem, and their sound has a natural, glowing positive feel — so of course they chose a song drenched in despair and pain and remorse.

13. Wish the Worst – The Travoltas
Frontman Salim Nourallah knows the Old 97’s well — he’s produced their last four albums, ones universally praised for capturing their true sound more so than some studio efforts. Salim is quite the showman himself, and the Travoltas are a blast live. It’s a tongue-in-cheek pop/rock/lounge mix that’s pretty unique. Wish the Worst is a long-time fan favorite that Rhett sings from a bitter, drunken place, and this cover is coming from the same place — just from a more extroverted guy, I’d say.

14. Niteclub – Occasional Milkshake
Frontman Mark Bryan — founding member, songwriter and lead guitarist for Hootie & the Blowfish —is a huge fan of the Old 97’s. He was the first person to claim a song, and went with Niteclub, and tears into it for a very faithful cover.

15. Can’t Get A Line – Grey Griffin
I’m pretty sure Murry wrote this song for Grey, so it’s a lot of fun to hear her cover it — and to hear their son Tex on harmonies. I’m a huge fan of this song,

16. Dressing Room Walls – Western Star
I met Max from Western Star in the studio when the Old 97’s were recording Most Messed Up. Ken produced their new album, and he mentioned to me that they did a real “barnburner” version of Dressing Room Walls. It ended up not making their album, so I was quick to grab it. It does not disappoint.

Can you feel it?

The unmistakable charge in the air that can mean only one thing: another Old 97’s work of rock is being conceived a stone’s throw from the border.

That’s right fellow Wreckers, our favorite foursome is hard at work siring lucky number eleven in the creative confines of Sonic Ranch Recording Studios in Tornillo, Texas. The very same studios in which 20 years prior, four talented young men, fresh off a label bidding war, full of swagger and promise, settled in to beget their seminal musical effort, Too Far To Care.

We all know 2014’s phenomenal Most Messed Up is a tough act to follow, but jangling around amongst the ghost of TFTC past seems a damn good omen. Even Rhett felt the whispered hush of his twenty-something self upon his return to the scene of their tipping point.

Before heading to Tornillo, the band spent a number of preproduction days on a ranch in Tyler working through their nascent collection of songs.

So who’s driving the 97’s train?

IMG_8144

Four-time Grammy winner, Vance Powell has his hand on the throttle this eleventh time around the track. He’s pulling off the trifecta: producing, engineering and mixing. And who is Vance Powell?

Hailing from Missouri, Vance moved to Nashville in the 90s to work as a monitor engineer for the legendary Tammy Wynette. In 2002, he helped build Blackbird Studios, and later became co-owner of Sputnik Sound. Vance has worked extensively with Jack White, as well as Big and Rich, Willie Nelson, Jars of Clay, Buddy Guy, Danger Mouse, The Whigs, Black Prairie, Elle King and Chris Stapleton who recently won three CMAs, including Album of the Year for his most recent album, Traveller.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 5.43.43 PM

Murry speaks highly of their collaboration. “Our producer Vance is great. I really like him. He comes from more humble beginnings as a crew person on tours, into the engineering world, to his grammy that he just got for the Chris Stapleton record. He’s one of us, and we always do better around someone who feels more like a distant family member.”

Sounds like a nice fit.

Murry was kind enough to offer up some thoughts about heading back in this studio after so many years. Here’s what he had to say.

“This is day five for us, and I’ve settled into my routine. Wake up, think some version of the phrase “I get to do it again!”, get some very strong coffee from the kitchen, go pet one or more of the four kitties that live around the hacienda we’re living in, and head down the the studio where there is good internet, the Christmas lights inside are powered up, and where, except for a couple of meals, I’ll be parked til 10pm tonight.”

12804630_1095776750454127_5969448926061767595_n

“I know it’s been 20 years since we’ve been at this studio, and since Too Far, but honestly, it just doesn’t seem like it. The only sign that it’s been “a long time ago” is my inability to recall the layout and details about the buildings that make up Sonic Ranch studio. I guess I remember what I want to remember — the pecan trees (there were 1500 acres of them then, and 2200 acres now), the big sky and stars (desert style, zero light pollution) and the homieness of my room and the place where we get to eat Mexican food 24-7. Those haven’t changed one bit. The place is much busier these days — Sublime are here, as is David from Bauhaus, so for me it’s been great fun talking 80’s California hardcore with one guy and 1977 British punk with another, all over fantastic homemade breakfast burritos.”

IMG_6988

“The recordings are making me happy. I won’t say too much about the songs, except that there are some real ear-worms, it’s thick and big and raw enough for my garage/punk leanings. Rhett sounds great, and I hope to also sound great when I’m on the hot-seat tomorrow. Everyone is firing on all cylinders. For my part, I have a punky Smokers/Book of Poems type song called “Nobody”, and a 60s-garage/Animals-ish one called Off My Mynd. The “Y” is in there to freak you out and expand your mynd.”

IMG_6386

IMG_0868

IMG_2689

“I’m not going to go on about this being our 11th studio album — it is, but — I don’t care. Every one of our records has happily been the most current and most important one, and we usually have only a general sense of where a new record will live in what is becoming a healthy fat catalog.”

IMG_7389

IMG_2848

IMG_0585

IMG_3675

“I will say we wanted somewhat to do something “different” from Most Messed Up, but… it’s never really *that* different, is it? Same life, same (great) people, same process of cracking open the human heart and conveying it where other human hearts will understand. Nostalgia is something we don’t dabble too much in, except for fun over drinks or food with good friends, where nostalgia can be a great sport. But for now, it’s 10:45am and I’m about to go for 11 hours, where I couldn’t be happier.”

(photos courtesy of Jason Garner, Ken Bethea and Philip Peeples)

Thrilled to announce we’re hitting the road with the Heartless Bastards!

Tix on sale 2/5. Most dates feature support from BJ Barham (of American Aquarium).

 

Wed, May 4  New Orleans  One Eyed Jacks

Thu, May 5  Nashville  Cannery Ballroom

Fri, May 6  Birmingham  Saturn

Sat, May 7  Atlanta  Terminal West

Sun, May 8  Carrboro  Cat’s Cradle

Mon, May 9  Washington, DC  9:30 Club

Tue, May 10 Brooklyn  Music Hall of Williamsburg

Thu, May 12  New York  Irving Plaza

Fri, May 13  Boston  Royale Boston

Sat, May 14  Philadelphia  Union Transfer

Sun, May 15  Buffalo  Tralf Music Hall

Mon, May 16  Toronto  Lee’s Palace

Wed, May 18  Cleveland Beachland Ballroom

Thu, May 19  Cincinnati  The Woodward Theater

Fri, May 20  Cincinnati The Woodward Theater

Sat, May 21  Chicago  Thalia Hall

Sun, May 22  Minneapolis First Ave

Tue, May 24  St. Louis  The Ready Room

Wed, May 25  Tulsa  Cain’s Ballroom

We’re pretty damn excited to announce the first ever Old 97’s County Fair, this April 16 in downtown Dallas. Featuring live performances from:

Old 97’s
Drive By Truckers
Lucero
Deer Tick
Justin Townes Earle
Nikki Lane
Brent Best
Madison King

And tons of fun for the whole family, including:
Ferris Wheel
Midway games
Dunk Tanks
Food Trucks
Fair Food (corn dogs, funnel cakes, etc)
Local Artists and Vendors
Kids Under 10 are Free
Dog Friendly

We can’t wait to see ya there!

Get your tickets here: TICKETS >

Find out more here: Official County Fair Website >

The 97’s have wrapped up their touring for 2015.
I know, HOW CAN THIS BE, RIGHT??!? No New Year’s Eve show?!? No Christmas run in Dallas?!? Ken has hinted there might be a small show near Tyler, but other than that, NADA until Todos Santos, Mexico in January
*sigh*
Commence post-tour depression.
It’s been a fantastic run through the midwest and east coast. I can personally attest to the epic face-melting, Rock God performances in DC, Philly and Cleveland.
rhett6

King of all of his World. Pre-Time Bomb jump exhuberance courtesy of Vivian Wang

Long-time fan and concert photographer extraordinaire, Vivian Wang shares her thoughts about the DC show here.
rhett2

Rhett enjoying himself on the 9:30 stage. Courtesy of Vivian Want

 

murry1

Murry at 9:30 Club courtesy of Vivian Wang

 

old4

another gravity-defying rock jump. courtesy of Vivian Wang

Not being hip-swivel deep in support of any particular album, the setlists have been a satisfying cross-catalogue assortment of old (Jagged, Valentine, Barrier) and new (Give it Time, Nashville, Guadalajara) favorites with a handful of rarities like Old Familiar Steam, Going Going Gone, and a very spirited Bel Air (YESSS!!) as a nod to their former label, Bloodshot Records’ 20th anniversary.
smilingRhett

The unmitigated joy of being a rock star. courtesy of Kristie Gripp

 

murry

Murry doing his thing. courtesy of Kristie Gripp

 

philip

Whistling Boy courtesy of Kristie Gripp

 

kenguitar

The Tele Master courtesy of Kristie Gripp

 

rhettend

greenrhett

He’s dressed all in… green. courtesy of Kristie Gripp

In addition to the above, the band busted out Rhett’s ode to author Raymond Carver, the rumba rocker What We Talk About on the later part of the tour. What a special treat! The song was first featured at the soundcheck in Cleveland before being included on the show’s setlist. Fantastic!!

Speaking of sound checks, Ken jumped on Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming app. Through Periscope, Ken gave followers a glimpse backstage during soundcheck. He took requests from fans, some of which made their way on to the night’s setlist like Am I Too Late. Sometimes he gave tours of the venue, the city and pulled the curtain back on bus life with a bunch of dudes. Make sure you download Periscope so you don’t miss any of the fun when touring starts again. The videos on Periscope are only available for 24 hours, so set up your alerts!
soundcheck

Soundcheck via Periscope

 

rhettPeriscope

The requests poured in. Ivy won this draw.

 

KenPeriscope

Ken does make it look easy.

And lastly, one of the high points for all involved, especially the 97′s, was when legendary Cheap Trick dummer, Bun E. Carlos joined the guys on stage at the Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin to put his personal stamp on a rowdy cover of Southern Girls. Philip may have to retire his kit now.
Bun E. Carlos on Philip's kit!!

Bun E. Carlos on Philip’s kit!!

Philip with Bun E. Carlos

Philip with Bun E. Carlos


bunecarlosjump

impromptu jump during Southern Girls with Bun E. Carlos on the kit! courtesy of Kristie Gripp

OTHER PRESS OF NOTE:
Before embarking on the fall tour, Rhett spoke to Jonathan Dick at Brooklyn Vegan about longevity, technology and songwriting here.
Here’s a fun, informative interview with Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times in Madison with the frontman of our favorite “big, dumb rock band”.
Review, setlist and photos from Thalia Hall in Chicago here.
Rhett performed a five-song set at for the Isthmus Sessions in Madison, Wisconsin prior to the show.
And finally, our friends at Paste Magazine took on the daunting task of choosing 12 best Old 97′s songs. With such a vast oeuvre of incredible songs, who can possibly whittle it down to a mere dozen. It’s a fine list, but no Jagged? No St. Ignatius? No BEL AIR?!? Really? Check it out and let us know which other ones are on your How-Could-He-Leave-Out-This-Song list.
That’s it for now. Keep checking the tour dates for any additional gigs before January. In the meantime, you can catch Rhett play a number of solo shows between now and the end of the year, including Live at Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY; Christmas Extravaganza Trifecta at City Winery, NY, Chicago and Nashville; and the annual CF benefit concert held this year at a new venue, Gas Monkey Bar and Grill.
Hey, and just for grins here’s a Magnet Magazine Classic of Old 97’s circa: Too Far To Care.
But wait, there’s more! Anyone who has had the pleasure to speak with Ken, knows he is a superb storyteller. Recently he was one of the featured storytellers at Oral Fixation in which he tells of his journey from office grunt to rockstar.
Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.56.36 PM

 

 

***Many thanks to Kristie Gripp and Vivian Wang for the use of their photos. View all of Kristie’s Old 97’s photos on her flickr page.

Instagram contest

September 17, 2015

We’ve got some cool merch piling up around here, so let’s see what we can do about that, eh? Let’s have a contest! Here’s how it works.

  1. Follow us on Instagram.
  2. Go to an Old 97’s show on the Fall Tour.
  3. Take a picture at the show and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #old97s2015 and tag @old97s in it

Everyone picture posted is an entry into a random drawing. We’ll do one Oct 1 and another Nov 1.

Have fun!

Hey y’all this is Jefe, Old 97’s web guy, breaking the 4th wall for a minute. In case you haven’t heard, I’m spearheading the creation of an album of Old 97’s covers to benefit charitwater.org. It’s currently being funded on PledgeMusic and we have to hit 100% in the next 2 months for it to happen.

www.pledgemusic.com/desperatetimes

The minimum pledge is $10 for an Access Pass, which gets you the full digital download when it’s ready, along with access to behind-the-scenes studio info as it happens, and maybe an exclusive track or two as well.

The album is a benefit for charity: water, an amazing non-profit organization that’s working to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Check them out:

www.charitywater.org

Desperate Times will feature Old 97’s songs performed by some amazing artists, including:

Hayes Carll

Ben Kweller

Polyphonic Spree

Kelly Willis (Rollerskate Skinny!)

Monte Warden (The Wagoneers) & Chip Kinman (Rank & File)

Slobberbone

Those Darlins

The Deathray Davies (Valentine!)

Occasional Milkshake

The Travoltas

The O’s

Western Star

…and maybe even more when it’s all said and done. It’s going to be mixed by John Dufhilo and will be ready to press before the end of the year.

We’re currently revealing what songs are being covered one at a time, in posts only visible to pledgers. Number three comes out today.

I hope you’re join us for this very cool project. Please, tell your friends, share on your socials, and check back often as we work to make a difference—and make a really cool album, too.

After lighting up the midwest on a successful short Old 97’s run, Rhett continued his tour in support of his stellar MMU companion solo effort, The Traveler.

 

Starting briefly in his beloved Texas, the bulk of his latest run was a jaunt from Seattle to Hermosa Beach, accompanied by the lovely, angelic-voiced Annalisa Tornfelt. She joined Rhett on stage for a handful of songs from The Traveler, as well as Old 97’s tunes. Her virtuosity and backing vocals brought to life the tracks from the new album, and added a new layer to old classics.

 

Along the way, our favorite frontman did a fair number of interviews, radio stops, and podcasts. Here are a few highlights starting with Texas.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.22.52 PM
Rhett commandeered the airwaves of Austin’s My KUTX for an hour to share a dozen of his favorite songs.
CHP9mjEUUAA2DQC

KXT’s Paul Slavens and Rhett

He stopped by KXT Live Sessions to chat up, reminisce and perform a couple of songs for old friend and Travoltas member, Paul Slavens. Rising star Madison King joined in to sing her sweet duet she wrote with Rhett, Feel Like Falling In Love.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.34.40 PM

Madison King and Rhett at KXT

Before heading to the West Coast, Mr. Miller hooked up with The Ticket’s zany morning team, Bob and Dave at Eatzi’s in Grapevine to perpetrate a little BaD shenanigans on unsuspecting female customers. Hilarity ensues. But seriously, what girl WOULDN’T want the lead singer of Old 97’s to make up a song featuring her name, no matter how ridiculous? Zero.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.41.24 PM

roaming the market without a hall pass

In Portland, our wordsmith wowed the collective gathered in the intimate studios of Kink FM’s Skype studios with spirited performances of new songs, old songs and insight into his collaboration with local favorites, Black Prairie. Video of the interview and performance are here, here, here, here, here and here.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.30.23 PM

Rhett at KINK FM Skype Studios in Portland

In LA, KCSN host Sky Daniels and Rhett discuss all-things The Traveler and then some. Among “then some” is an interesting discussion concerning the Texas meaning of ordering a “coke”. Annalisa Tornfelt joins in on fiddle and backing vocals, kicking it up a notch on Wanderlust.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.41.43 PM

with Annalisa Tornfelt (photo courtesy of Laura Smith)

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.39.19 PM

photo courtesy of Laura Smith

But wait! There’s more…
Despite two glaring mistakes in the headline, Chilled Magazine published a fun interview with Rhett. Curious how he spends downtime, his favorite foods or which libations are stocked in his poolside Tiki bar (he has a Tiki bar??!?), read on.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.40.59 PM
How do you feel about Michael Bublé? Do you hate his voice, song-stylings or that stupid accent mark on the é? Well, read why Rhett takes issue with the Canadian crooner in A.V. Club’s Hatesong feature here.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.38.56 PM

photo courtesy of Laura Smith

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.45.00 PM

Jon Neufeld and Rhett

Recorded shortly after The Traveler’s release, Rhett made his home turf one of the first stops on his presser rounds. Here he is at Woodstock Radio.

On a sunny afternoon in the Boston area, Joan Holliday of The River and Mr. Miller discuss Peter Buck, reincarnation and lay bare his psyche on my new favorite game, Either/Or.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.19.33 PM

Judy Holliday of the River and Rhett basking in the New England sun

The Master of the Interview, Rhett gets comfortable and opens up to The Alt in Our Stars podcast host, Chris Payne about a number of topics including a tale or two about Third Eye Blind. The entire hour makes for an exceedingly entertaining conversation.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.38.18 PM

photo courtesy of Laura Smith

And finally, if you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favor and check out One Week, One Band. Guest author, Daniel Couch wrote an extensive 24-part series of posts mined from multiple sources, including this very website.
 Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.39.50 PM
The Hardest Working Rocker in the biz is on a well-deserved family vacation. But never fear, he will be out and about again this week at the sold out Barefoot at the Belmont and a July 4th band gig at the Twilite Lounge. Then our favorite foursome embark on a long-awaited European mini tour.
Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 6.08.58 PM

photo courtesy of Laura Smith

Thank Jehovah he loves what he does. I think I can safely speak for us all when I say we love what he does, too.
See you on the road!!